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Monday, May 27, 2024

Local food-bank supply running low as holidays approach

Before Thanksgiving, the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank, low on food, put a call out to Gainesville citizens for donations.

Enough food was collected to provide for those in need, but as Christmas approaches, the bank is running low again.

"Yes, they responded and yes, the food was great, but now we are almost back to where we were before Thanksgiving," said Kristina Stubbs, the food bank administrative assistant.

In early November, Anne Voyles, the director of the food bank, said she panicked when she realized how low the food supply was.

"I have been here almost eight years and the bank almost 20, and we had never been out of food," she said. "This year we were out of food. I had cookies, crackers, that sort of thing, but we couldn't meet real needs."

Voyles spread the word about the food scarcity at the bank, and she credits the community for making this Thanksgiving a successful one.

With the help of donations from local drives, the food bank was able to assemble more than 400 food baskets.

But the food didn't last long, and now the bank is suffering another shortage.

"We went through 11,000 pounds of food just for Thanksgiving alone, and that is on top of the usual orders we get," Stubbs said. "There is just an enormous demand for the food."

The bank is one of the more than 200 members of America's Second Harvest, which is a nationwide food bank, Voyles said.

Bread of the Mighty doesn't give directly to the individuals in need, but it is a warehouse for food donations that will be organized and given to one of the 150 groups it works with around the area, Voyles said.

The food bank is the largest supplier of food to nonprofit organizations in Alachua County and four surrounding counties, and it, like other food banks, has been noticing considerable decreases in its food supply since this summer.

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The dwindling supplies make the organizations that regularly use the food banks, such as the Fire of God Ministries, seek out other sources to feed the people.

"We feed 180 to 300 people a week, four times a week, with the lines growing longer all the time" said Marcia Conwell, a volunteer at the ministry. "We now have to go to the main grocery store a few times a month to get the supplies we need, something we've never had to do before this year."

Along with local food drives, food banks throughout the country depend on several different sources for donations.

The first source food banks rely on is the farming industry and the food acquired by the United States Agriculture Department's Bonus Commodity Program, which buys surplus produce from the farmers, Voyles said.

But she said there are fewer products for the government to buy because the agricultural industry has been doing well in recent years.

Competition from discount stores is also a large factor in the shortage.

With the popularity of 99-cent stores and other low-cost retailers growing in recent years, grocery stores are starting to sell their excess inventory off to them as opposed to donating it to the banks like they have in the past, she said. In addition, demand for the food has increased over the past year as well, Voyles said.

While many people think that food-donation centers only feed the homeless, Conwell said this isn't the case. More people being fed at these centers have jobs but still fall into the category of the "working poor"- someone who is employed but still is living below the poverty line, she said.

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